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It’s time to make a move

08.07.09 at 1:40 pm ET
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In the past when the Red Sox hit a bump in the road I was always confident the pitching would come around, at least until the bats got going. That hasn’t the base here over the last three weeks. Here we are and all of a sudden three-fifths of the rotation is struggling just to get through five innings. 

You have to wonder: Where is the help going to come from?

Is Daisuke Matsuzaka going to re-emerge in September?

Can Paul Byrd help despite not having thrown a major league pitch since last season?

And how about Tim Wakefield, who can throw a bullpen session but can’t cover first base?

To me, you go young. You go with Michael Bowden.

Let’s face it, the John Smoltz experiment is at an end. He’s a Hall of Famer who has been through the wars and has been a great, great pitcher. He’s just not getting it done. It really makes you appreciate what Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez did, losing five mph on their fastballs and still getting big leaguers out.

Right now Smoltz has no confidence in his fastball, he can’t locate it, and when he doesn’t locate he is getting burned. He’s giving up home runs left and right and just simply not getting it done, a fact backed up by the fact that in six of his eight starts he has allowed five or more runs. I think last might have been it for Smoltz in the starting rotation.

But that’s not the Red Sox’ only problem.

You have Jason Bay with the hamstring problem, J.D. Drew’s groin, and now Rocco Baldelli has this bruised ankle. Kevin Youkilis was playing left field for goodness sake. Then there is Jed Lowrie’s arm injury. It makes you think what has happed to this team we felt soo good about a month ago. Is Theo’s phone burning right now? That’s the question. Does he go out and look for a Jon Garland, or somehow manage to pry away Marco Scutaro from Toronto? (A tough feat with Scutaro presenting value to the Jays as a potential Type A free agent.)

I have another question — what does Casey Kotchman do for this team? Nothing against Casey Kotchman, he’s a very good player, but basically we’re saying he’s a defensive replacement. Not sure the Red Sox have the luxury of using a roster spot for that right now. You need an extra guy in the bullpen, as well as a fifth outfielder. It makes you wonder if Mark Kotsay wouldn’t be a better fit for this club since he fills two rolls, first baseman and outfielder. I understand Adam LaRoche and Kotchman are better hitters, but for the chemistry of this team Kotsay might be a better fit.

What is going to be out there? Can Theo pull something off? Is this team good enough right now? I don’t think so. And their biggest question remains the most important one. Once so deep with starting pitching, now they can’t find five guys to fill out a rotation. 

Something has to be done, and done quick.

Read More: Casey Kotchman, john smoltz, mark kotsay,

Red Sox at Yankees Match-ups, 8/7

08.07.09 at 12:54 pm ET
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RED SOX VS. A.J. BURNETT

As fate would have it, tonight marks the third time this season that A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett, who were once Marlins teammates, will face each other. It’s been advantage Sox on the two previous occasions, due in large part to a couple of stinkers turned in by Burnett.

In starts against Boston on April 25 and June 9, Burnett lasted only five innings and two and two-thirds innings, respectively. He’s given up a total of 13 runs to the Sox this season, 11 of which were earned. He looks to forget about those two and an ugly last start against the White Sox in which he gave up seven earned and wasn’t able to make it through the fifth. As it stands he’s 10-5 on the season with a 3.89 ERA.

Here’s how Sox hitters have done against the right-hander:

David Ortiz (28 career plate appearances vs. Burnett): .259 average / .286 on-base / .593 slugging, 2 homers, 5 RBI, BB, 10 SO
Dustin Pedroia (28): .273 / .429 / .545, 2 homers, 4 RBI, 6 BB, 2 SO
Kevin Youkilis (26): .261 / .346 / .261, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 3 SO, HBP
J.D. Drew (25): .300 / .440 / .400, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 4 SO
Mike Lowell (23): .200 / .304 / .250, 3 BB, 4 SO
Jason Varitek (21): .278 / .381 / .556, homer, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 5 SO, HBP
Jason Bay (20): .333 / .400 / .556, homer, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO
Jacoby Ellsbury (18): .278 / .278 / .444, homer, RBI, 4 SO
Victor Martinez (17): .250 / .471 / .333, 4 BB, SO, HBP
Jed Lowrie (12): .167 / .167 / .250, 4 SO
Nick Green (10): .300 / .300 / .600, RBI, 2 SO
Casey Kotchman (10): .300 / .300 / .400, SO
John Smoltz (3): 0-for-3, 2 SO

YANKEES VS. JOSH BECKETT

Here comes the bad news for Sox fans. Lost in all of the talk of Burnett’s stinkers against the Sox is the fact that in that April 25 game in which Burnett gave up eight earned, his former teammate was even worse.

While both pitchers lasted just five and each allowed eight earned runs and two homers while striking out three, Beckett allowed more hits (10 to Burnett’s eight) and walks (four to Burnett’s three). Fortunately for the Boston ace, the Sox were able to win the game, 16-11.

In two starts against the Bombers since then, Beckett turned in six innings apeice and has given up three earned and zilch, respectively. The more impressive of the two came on June 9 (against Burnett) when he gave up just one hit and struck out eight.

Beckett has now had 16 straight starts, dating all the way back to May 5, in which he’s lasted at least six innings. Two of those have been complete-game shutouts and he’s had a 2.28 ERA over the span.

Lastly, who said it’s too early for Cy Young talk? According to the Neyer and James’ Cy Young predictor formula [which, as everyone knows, is ((5*IP/9)-ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + Shutouts + ((W*6)-(L*2)) + Victory Bonus], Beckett would be a close second to Felix Hernandez if the season were to end today.

Lifetime, current Yankee hitters have hit .294 off Beckett. Here are the individual numbers:
Derek Jeter (47): .318 / .348 / .409, homer, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 3 SO
Johnny Damon (45): .293 / .341 / .561, 2 homers, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 9 SO
Robinson Cano (42): .342 / .405 / .605, 2 homers, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 3 SO
Alex Rodriguez (41): .306 / .390 / .472, homer, 7 RBI, 5 BB, 8 SO
Melky Cabrera (39): .343 / .385 / .429, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 8 SO, HBP
Jorge Posada (30): .321 / .367 / .357, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 8 SO
Hideki Matsui (21): .200 / .238 / .300, BB, 3 SO
Eric Hinske (20): .250 / .250 / .350, RBI, 5 SO
Nick Swisher (19): .313 / .421 / .500 homer, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 5 SO
Mark Teixeira (18): .154 / .389 / .154, 5 BB, 6 SO
Jose Molina (13): .154 / .154 / .154, 4 SO
Jerry Hairston (7): 2-for-7, 3 RBI, SO
Sergio Mitre (2): 1-for-2

Read More: Beckett, Burnett, Yankees,

Pedroia riled up after pitches from former college foe

08.07.09 at 12:55 am ET
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NEW YORK — One of the more memorable moments for the Red Sox during their forgettable 13-6 loss to the Yankees, Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, came with the game already out of reach in the eighth inning.

Yankees pitcher Mark Melancon — a former University of Arizona reliever who Dustin Pedroia hit well while at rival Arizona State — first threw a pitch over the Sox’ second baseman’s head before hitting him in the left shoulder.

Pedroia immediately yelled out Melancon, “That’s two (expletive) times, (expletive)!” while being escorted down the first base line by New York catcher Jorge Posada. The incident led to Red Sox manager Terry Francona coming out to show his displeasure, while also checking on the health of his No. 2 hitter at first base.

“It was kind of surprising, obviously,” Pedroia said. “It goes over your head and that’s not really anything to mess around with. I don’t know why they would be throwing at me, if they were, especially in that situation. It’s a blowout. That’s fine.”

Pedroia was having a fairly big night up until that point, having doubled in his first at-bat, and then hitting the first opposite field home run of his life in the third inning for the game’s initial run.

So, did Pedroia think Melancon was throwing at him?

“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s really not my concern. My concern is the way we’re playing. We’re not playing very good. I’m not going to say anything about that. We’ve got bigger issues to handle than a couple of balls getting away from a guy. We’ll come out tomorrow and play good.”

Read More: Dustin Pedroia,

Ortiz: ‘I’m going to let you guys know what I’ve got, period’

08.07.09 at 12:24 am ET
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NEW YORK — Speaking after the Red Sox 13-6 loss to the Yankees, Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, David Ortiz admitted that the drama surrounding his quest to find out what he tested positive for in 2003 is weighing on him.

But, as Ortiz pointed out, he is hoping that the Saturday press conference which he will hold in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Players Association will start putting some of the questions in the past.

“We’re going to figure things out and move on,” he said. “I’m not going to keep this in my head my whole career. It’s not like I have 10 years left, but it’s the kind of situation that gets you frustrated…I’m going to let you guys know what I’ve got, period.”

Ortiz went 0 for 5 and is currently 3 for 23 on the current road trip. At least some of the struggles, he said, can be attributed to the pressure put on by the revelation that he was one of the 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in ’03.

“Sometimes,” he said when asked if the news has become an albatross. “But I just don’t think about it, go back out there and fight.

“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling good. Things are happening, but I feel good. I don’t want to put too much in my head right, there’s no time for that. We’re running out of time.”

Ortiz was heartily booed by the sell-out Yankee Stadium crowd in each of his five at-bats, yet that part of the environment didn’t seem to put a dent in the slugger’s psyche.

“I don’t care. You get that every time you come to New York. Actually, this time it wasn’t like it (usually) is,” he said. “I was expecting something worse. I come out early to the field and you see the fans come right to me, even Yankees fans. ‘You’re the best.’ ‘Just hang in there.’ It’s all kind of the stuff you want to hear. That never changes.”

As for the plight of his team — which is now 3 1/2 games in back of the Yankees —  Ortiz tried to reel in some of the panic. 

“When you lose games of course you worry about we should have done better,” he said. “After you lose there’s nothing you can do but pick up your head and come back the next day and fight back.”

Read More: David Ortiz,

Pain in left arm a concern for Lowrie

08.06.09 at 11:53 pm ET
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NEW YORK — During his first at-bat of the Red Sox‘ 13-6 loss to the Yankees, Jed Lowrie felt numbness in his left hand. In his second at-bat it got worse. That’s when the Red Sox shortstop knew it was time to call it a night.

The pain Lowrie experienced ran from the middle of his left forearm down the side of his hand all the way to the end of his pinky. It encompasses the same wrist which he had surgery on earlier this season.

“I’ve always tried to have an approach of tomorrow is a new day and figure out what the problem and get it fixed, but it’s frustrating,” said Lowrie, who was slated to talk with Red Sox manager Terry Francona to find out what the next step would be. “I can’t sit here and tell you I’m not frustarted, but I have to figure out what’s going on and get it better.”

It wasn’t the first time Lowrie had experienced such pain, having dealt with it late in a game against Oakland a week before. But since the problem cropped up late in the game, he dealt with it until the next day, and after that the problem began to dissipate… until Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

“I told (trainer) Paul (Lessard when it happened against Oakland), but like I said it didn’t happen until the eighth inning and I didn’t have any more at-bats and I just had to play the field. It was still a little numb the next day and more painful, but after a couple of days it felt better. I don’t know if this was something new or if the first time never got better.”

Lowrie was replaced at shortstop by Nick Green in the first inning after striking out in both of his at-bats.

Read More: Jed Lowrie,

Ortiz to talk Saturday

08.06.09 at 8:46 pm ET
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David Ortiz let it be known right when the clubhouse doors opened and the media was allowed in.

‘€œNothing today,’€ he said. ‘€œLike I said, when I find out something I’€™ll let you know.’€

Well, whatever Ortiz knows about how he got on the list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in  will be finally verbalized Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

Greg Bouris, a spokesman for the Major League Baseball Players Association who was in the Red Sox‘€™ clubhouse prior to Thursday night’€™s game, said that Ortiz will address the media in a press conference along with incoming union chief, Michael Weiner.

Later in the afternoon, Ortiz, who was in a spirited mood throughout the pregame, was surrounded by the throng of media ‘€“local and national ‘€“ looking to see if Ortiz would comment on his situation at all. But all they got was the slugger sitting in front of his locker, uttering few words before sending the gathering scattering by cranking the music atop his cubicle.

In each of Ortiz’ at-bats the designated hitter was booed loudly .

Red Sox at Yankees Match-Ups, 8/6

08.06.09 at 3:25 pm ET
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You couldn’€™t find two more different teams than the Red Sox and Yankees at this juncture in the season.

In 18 games since the All-Star break, Boston forgot their winning ways and forfeited first place in the AL East en route to an unimpressive 8-10 record. New York, on the other hand, could hardly be stopped as they went 14-5 and reassured Mr. Steinbrenner that he was getting plenty of bang for his buck(s).

Now the Yankees (65-42) sit atop the AL East standings with Boston (62-44) trailing by 2.5 games as the two teams prepare to begin a four-game series in the Bronx this weekend.

Although Boston leads the season series 8-0 in 2009, it might be wishful thinking to assume the Red Sox will continue their dominance over the Yankees during this rough stretch. If anything, the odds are stacked against the Sox. The two biggest concerns seem to be that slugger Jason Bay is set to miss the first two games of the series, and the bullpen is fatigued after pitching 8.2 innings in just two games against Tampa Bay this week.

Not to mention the series opens tonight with John Smoltz facing the 23-year-old Joba Chamberlain, who is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his last three starts. Smoltz, in contrast, is 2-4 with a 7.12 ERA in seven starts this season. But what’€™s perhaps most notable about Smoltz’€™s poor pitching performance this season is that it’€™s almost unprecedented. As WEEI.com’€™s DJ Bean writes in today’€™s LEEInks:

‘€œSmoltz has now given up at least five earned runs in three consecutive starts dating back to July 20 (1-2). The last time Smoltz had such a stretch, the Braves were in the NL West in September of 1993’€¦ For what it’€™s worth, Smoltz has never seen one of these streaks reach four games.’€

But that could all change tonight as Smoltz faces a Yankees lineup that’€™s first in the American League in OPS, OBP, and slugging percentage. New York has been outscored 55-31 in their eight losses to Boston this season, but don’€™t expect that discrepancy to stay so lopsided this weekend.

Still, there might be hope after all: Chamberlain is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against Boston this year, and recently acquired All-Star Victor Martinez has gone 10 for 21 with two doubles, a homer, and six RBIs in four games since being traded from Cleveland.

RED SOX VS. CHAMBERLAIN
J.D. Drew (14 career plate appearances vs. Chamberlain): .000 average / .071 on-base percentage / .000 slugging, BB, 6 SOMike Lowell (14): .385 / .429 / .692, homer, BB, 2 SO

Dustin Pedroia (14): .500 / .571 / .667, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO

Jacoby Ellsbury (12): .182 / .250 / .182, BB, SO

David Ortiz (12): .273 / .333 / .273, RBI, BB, 4 SO

Kevin Youkilis (11): .333 / .636 / .333, 5 BB, 2 SO

Jason Bay (9): 4-for-7, homer, 3 RBI, BB, SO, HBP

Jason Varitek (7): 1-for-5, BB, 3 SO, HBP

Victor Martinez (6) 2-for-5, homer, 2 RBI, SO

Nick Green (5): 2-for-5, RBI, 2 SO

Casey Kotchman (3): 1-for-3

Jed Lowrie (2): 0-for-2

Rocco Baldelli (1): 0-for-1

YANKEES VS. SMOLTZ

Johnny Damon (9): 0-for-7, 2 BB, SO

Derek Jeter (5): 1-for-5, double, 3 SO

Alex Rodriguez (5): 1-for-5, RBI, SO

Melky Cabrera (4): 1-for-4, SO

Nick Swisher (4): 1-for-4, SO

Eric Hinske (3): 0-for-3, 2 SO

Jorge Posada (3): 1-for-3, homer, 2 RBI

A.J. Burnett (2): 0-for-2, 2 SO

Mark Teixeira (2): 1-for-2, SO

Jerry Hairston (1): 0-for-1, SO

Read More: joba chamberlain, john smoltz, Match-Ups, New York Yankees

Bay doesn’t look good for tomorrow

08.05.09 at 11:57 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jason Bay didn’t come out to left field for the bottom half of the eighth inning in the Red Sox‘ 6-4 loss to the Rays, getting replaced by Nick Green, who made his fourth appearance in a major league outfield.

The reason for Bay’s absence? A right hamstring injury that won’t seem to go away.

“I re-aggravated the tweak running down to first in the eighth inning there,” said Bay, who go the Red Sox on the board first with a second-inning, solo home run. “It doesn’t feel real bad, but it’s definitely going to be a couple of days.

 “It’s basically the same thing. It just kind of calmed down and I kicked it right back to where I was three, four days ago, I feel like. We’ll go tomorrow and see what’s going on. I have no idea as far as a day. I couldn’t even tell you. I would say the chances of playing tomorrow probably aren’t good.”

The hamstring issue is foreign territory for Bay, who hasn’t endured such an injury prior to this season. It seemingly comes at a bad time with the slugger hitting his first homer since July 7, a 20 game stretch that included 61 at-bats.

“It’€™s something I thought I could play with,” he said. ” I just went down the line and it kind of grabbed me again and now knowing, I guess, how I felt when I started today, maybe that’€™s not good enough to play. I felt like it was and it kind of set me back a little bit. Knowing that now, I might take a few more days on top of that to make sure but I don’€™t think it’€™s a long-term problem at all, no.

“I’m unfamiliar with it. You’€™re going on feel and I take a lot of pride in going out there and playing every day or as much as I can and this is a little bit new for me but getting banged up along the way is part of it. It doesn’€™t make it any easier. ‘€œ

The hamstring issues isn’t the only thing Bay isn’t used to. Simply not being on the field doesn’t feel right for the player who has played in at least 155 games in four of the last five seasons.

‘€œI think any time you can’€™t play, you feel like you’€™re letting your teammates down,” Bay said. “Regardless of it’€™s Tampa Bay or the Yankees, definitely more than anything, I would love to be out there but for the next day or two, I don’€™t think that’€™s going to happen.”

Read More: jason bay,

Byrd: ‘Maybe I can get that World Series ring’

08.05.09 at 11:21 pm ET
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Patience paid off for Paul Byrd.

After taking a chance and spurning free agent offers in the offseason to spend time with his family throughout the school year, Byrd found himself without any major league suitors throughout May and June, when he thought the door would re-open to get back in the game. 

But Wednesday the 38-year-old hurler found his opening as he agreed to a minor league deal with the Red Sox.

“I’€™m excited,” Byrd said. “I think I can be back in shape and help them out in whatever role they need me to help them out in in September. Maybe I can get that World Series ring.”

Byrd, who had been working out near his home near Atlanta, will report in the next few days to the Red Sox Gulf Coast team in Fort Myers where he will “go down there, throw some innings and get back on track and get some arm strength”. And although the team didn’t see him workout, the impression the righty left on the Sox during eight starts in 2008 was enough to allow warrant the deal.

“No, I wasn’t,” said Byrd when asked if he had been working out consistently throughout the season. “I did a little bit of a roller coast and when I say that I mean I’€™m not ready to throw five innings tomorrow. I am in shape I have been throwing. It’€™s not like I haven’€™t picked up a ball. I have been throwing, I’€™ve been off a mound twice in the last three days, six times in the last two weeks. There’€™s  a difference between pitching in a game and throwing a bullpen. I would need to start out at one or two innings and build up arm strength.”

Byrd was hoping for a bigger midseason payday, but was clearly excited to be back with the team he helped get to the postseason a year ago.

“It’€™s structured to where I have to get myself ready. It’€™s not something where I have a ton of money and everything is guaranteed,” said Byrd, who had a 4-2 mark with a 4.78 ERA with Boston last season. “My hearts in it, everything is in it. It was just a situation where the timing had to be right and I feel like it is now.”

Daisuke speaks to the media … in English

08.05.09 at 8:32 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Prior to Wednesday night’s Red Sox game at Tropicana Field, Daisuke Matsuzaka answered questions from both the Japanese and American media. Tuesday he had met with Sox manager Terry Francona for approximately 45 minutes, and had another hour-long get-together with pitching coach John Farrell Wednesday afternoon.

But prior to answering questions through translator Masa Hoshino, Matsuzaka asked if he could read a statement in English, the first time he has addressed the American press in the language. The statement — which centered around the controversy from a Japanese-language article first surfaced in the United States by WEEI.com — was as follows: 

‘€œI want to clear up a few things. It was not my intention to make the meeting public or to criticize the Red Sox. The person who wrote the article is my old, old friend. I still trust her and this has never happened before. Training, no problem. No problem with the Red Sox. We will work it all out. I want to thank all my fans for their support and I can’€™t wait to see all of you when I go back to Fenway Park. Thank you.’€

Then came the question and answer portion of the afternoon…

How hard working on English? ‘€œI’€™m very well aware of all the difficulties and communication because of the language barrier, is a source of stress for the coaches and for the manager. It’€™s just another obstacle to having good communication. So I’€™m aware of that, and recently, bit by bit, admittedly, I’€™ve been taking steps to study a little bit of English every day.’€

Are you in better physical shape? ‘€œI think you can tell, just sort of by taking a look at me. But compared to really the beginning of the season, I feel much fitter and just gradually every day, I’€™ve been feeling stronger and more ready physically.’€

What date are you targeting to pitch for the Red Sox? ‘€œOf course I feel that once I feel physically ready then that’€™s going to be the time I’€™m also ready to pitch. I’€™m going to leave those decisions up to the discretion of the manager and whatever the coaching staff and the manager decides for me, I’€™m just going to do my best to hopefully meet whatever target they come up with.’€

Is the goal to pitch this season? ‘€œOf course.’€

 How were meetings with the manager, pitching coach?  ‘€œJust like you said, I think it was very meaningful and valuable for me to come up here and speak to them face to face. I think, by actually having those conversations face to face, I was able to clear up some misunderstandings that were still lingering so I think it was a very, very valuable opportunity to see them. And precisely because of this opportunity and the time that they set aside for me, I feel that I’€™m going to be able to go back and really work hard and get back to focusing on my training, which is what I need to be doing.’€

Will struggles make him stronger mentally and help him understand what he needs for long term success? “Yes, definitely. I want to keep playing baseball for a long, long time. I think those experiences I’€™ve had this year that have been difficult are all very, very important and very, very meaningful. And I think that precisely because there has been so much to learn, I just hope that I can take those lessons and apply them to my career down the line.’€

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